My musical ideas have never required the complex forms that we normally expect these days from serious composers. The difficulties in my music are in the concentration and the energy. The music is very difficult to perform in this respect since you immediately notice when an instrumentalist is not playing the right notes. Jazzy, slow, fast, loud, soft — all those differences are important to me. The work was inspired by a dream in which an oil tanker in the San Francisco Bay took off into the sky like a rocket; this image has its immediate musical equivalent at the beginning of the work, where repeated E minor chords go off like cannon salvos.
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He served as musical producer for a number of series for the Public Broadcasting System , including the award-winning series, The Adams Chronicles in and After Nixon in China[ edit ] This section is in list format, but may read better as prose. You can help by converting this section , if appropriate.
Editing help is available. The piece is scored for baritone voice, two flutes or two piccolos , two oboes, clarinet, bass clarinet, two bassoons, two horns, trumpet or piccolo tpt , timpani, synthesizer, and strings. The main characters are seven young Americans from different social and ethnic backgrounds, all living in Los Angeles.
The story takes place in the aftermath of the earthquake in Los Angeles in Hallelujah Junction : This piece for two pianos employs variations of a repeated two note rhythm. The intervals between the notes remain the same through much of the piece. It was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony. The piece calls for some instruments harp, piano, samplers to use just intonation , a tuning system in which intervals sound pure, rather than equal temperament , the common Western tuning system in which all intervals except the octave are impure.
Doctor Atomic : An opera in two acts, about Robert Oppenheimer , the Manhattan Project , and the creation and testing of the first atomic bomb. The libretto of Doctor Atomic by Peter Sellars draws on original source material, including personal memoirs, recorded interviews, technical manuals of nuclear physics, declassified government documents, and the poetry of the Bhagavad Gita , John Donne , Charles Baudelaire , and Muriel Rukeyser. The opera takes place in June and July , mainly over the last few hours before the first atomic bomb explodes at the test site in New Mexico.
Characters include Dr. A Flowering Tree : An opera in two acts, based on a folktale from the Kannada language of southern India as translated by A. Doctor Atomic Symphony : Based on music from the opera. Minshall, and was dedicated to opera and theater director Peter Sellars for his 50th birthday. He associated modern examples of suffering and injustice towards women around the world, with acts in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution of , Kabul , and comments from The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Adams was born ten years after Steve Reich and Philip Glass , and his writing is more developmental and directionalized, containing climaxes and other elements of Romanticism. This perspective offered to Adams a liberating alternative to the rule-based techniques of serialism. At this point Adams began to experiment with electronic music , and his experiences are reflected in the writing of Phrygian Gates —78 , in which the constant shifting between modules in Lydian mode and Phrygian mode refers to activating electronic gates rather than architectural ones.
Adams explained that working with synthesizers caused a "diatonic conversion," a reversion to the belief that tonality was a force of nature. One example is Grand Pianola Music —82 , a humorous piece that purposely draws its content from musical cliches.
Adams professes his love of other genres other than classical music; his parents were jazz musicians, and he has also listened to rock music, albeit only passively. Bach , and Johannes Brahms , who "were standing at the end of an era and were embracing all of the evolutions that occurred over the previous thirty to fifty years. Philip Glass , used a steady pulse that defines and controls the music.
Jonathan Bernard highlighted this adoption by comparing Phrygian Gates , written in , and Fearful Symmetries written eleven years later in III "Toccare"[ edit ] In the late s and early s, Adams started to add a new character to his music, something he called "the Trickster.
At first release, Nixon in China received mostly negative press feedback. Donal Henahan , writing in the New York Times, called the Houston Grand Opera world premiere of the work "worth a few giggles but hardly a strong candidate for the standard repertory" and "visually striking but coy and insubstantial. Robert Hugill for Music and Vision called the production "astonishing Tommasini called Adams a "skilled and dynamic conductor," and noted that the music "was gravely beautiful yet restless.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani , who marched in protest against the production, wrote: "this work is both a distortion of history and helped, in some ways, to foster a three decade long feckless policy of creating a moral equivalency between the Palestinian Authority, a corrupt terrorist organization, and the state of Israel, a democracy ruled by law. It is a powerful and important opera.
Symphony guide: John Adams's Harmonielehre
Then he had a dream. In the dream, while driving over the San Francisco Bay Bridge, he saw a huge tanker in the bay, and the tanker ascended into the sky. This dream image translated itself musically into a series of loud, pounding E minor chords. Some of that struggle is evident in Harmonielehre, which combines some of the sound and procedures of minimalism with music very reminiscent of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Adams cites Schoenberg , along with Gustav Mahler , Jean Sibelius , and Claude Debussy , as important influences on this piece. Those pounding E minor chords, blasted out by the orchestra, open Part I of the work, and the anger implicit in those chords lurks below the shimmering surface that emerges.
John Adams conducts John Adams
My own relationship to Schoenberg needs some explanation. Leon Kirchner, with whom I studied at Harvard, had himself been a student of Schoenberg in Los Angeles during the s. Kirchner had no interest in the serial system that Schoenberg had invented, but he shared a sense of high seriousness and an intensely critical view of the legacy of the past. Through Kirchner I became highly sensitized to what Schoenberg and his art represented. He was a "master" in the same sense that Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms were masters. That notion in itself appealed to me then and continues to do so. But Schoenberg also represented to me something twisted and contorted.
John Adams Harmonielehre (III Meister Eckhardt and Quackie) // LSO & Sir Simon Rattle